Every spring, Chichester Festival Theatre is plunged into a welter of activity as booking opens for the much-anticipated Festival season. But alongside the glossy brochures, star names and brand new productions, work of a different kind – but just as important – is in progress.
‘We are constantly thinking about how we can involve and reach people who may not find it easy to watch a performance in the traditional way,’ says Louise Rigglesford, the Theatre’s Community Partnerships Manager.
‘Perhaps you, or someone you know, used to come to the Theatre but, due to advancing years or disability, don’t feel up to coming on your own anymore. Maybe you don’t have a partner or theatre-going friend and don’t fancy having nobody to talk to in the interval. On the other hand, perhaps you’ve never been before and feel a bit nervous about what to expect.’
That’s where the CFT Buddies scheme comes in. This free companion service is for anyone who doesn’t feel physically able or comfortable attending a performance alone. It may benefit elderly or socially isolated people, those with learning difficulties or who are on the autism spectrum, individuals with physical disabilities or eyesight and hearing difficulties, or anyone experiencing anxiety about visiting the Theatre alone.
Buddies are friendly volunteer companions, who will meet you at the Theatre and watch the show with you, help buy any refreshments during the interval and stay with you until you are safely on your way home after the performance.
‘My buddy Sue was simply brilliant. She made the whole afternoon an enjoyable and relaxing experience,’ was the reaction from one participant.
To request a Buddy to assist you with a performance, or to find out more about the scheme, call the Box Office on 01243 781312, email [email protected] or visit cft.org.uk/buddies